When I was a teenager I knew a woman named Beryl Cohen, she had been to the Winnipeg Folk Festival but I never had. Winnipeg was famous for a few things and in the 70s the Folk Festival was the top of the mountain, maybe that’s why I didn’t go.
Like when I moved to Toronto and Keith Jarrett was actually going to play in the city I was living in, I was going to breath the same air as him…but I didn’t go to the concert because suddenly I felt like I had that Peggy Lee feeling.
The upstairs activity room at the YMHA on Hargrave at noon had a bunch of young Kuropatwa’s buzzing around when Beryl Cohen turned, “Bobby you’ve never been to the Folk Fest? Really? You should play it. You gotta make Mitch a cassette.”
Mitch = Mitch Podolak. He ran the festival at 222 Osbourne. I made a cassette of blues, boogie and a version by ear of Blue Rondo a La Turk. In the morning I went into the office, a secretary asked what I was doing and I explained myself. She said leave the cassette with her and come back at 2pm.
I came back at 2. There was a businessman sitting in the waiting area. He had a suit and had a briefcase, his fingers were tapping like someone about to close a deal. Mitch opened the door and the suit stood up, Mitch automatically shook his hand and started to lead him into his office then noticed me too. “Waitasec. Come here.” He said and motioned to the business guy to return to his chair while leading me into the office.
“Sit down” he said pointing at the extra chair as he took his own seat.
He pointed at the cassette and seemed annoyed. “This is you?” he asked.
“Yes it’s me.”
“You don’t play piano very good…You Fucking Play The Piano Man. You live here? Winnipeg?”
He hired me on the spot. A piano workshop along with Lori Conger of the Parachute Club and Adrienne Torf who accompanied Holy Near.
Lori and Adrienne asked me after where I came from and why I lived in Winnipeg. One of them said “You could do what I do.”
Really? I could tour the world playing piano in a band? No way. Hard to say what event leads to what event but I will always have an indelible I Owe You in my heart for Mitch Podolak.